When Matt Hamilton was growing up in Philadelphia, he spent idyllic summers in Newport, Rhode Island, with his family and a revolving door of guests. With such wonderful memories of those carefree years, Matt couldn’t wait for his own children to have those same experiences. “I have been coming to Newport for 67 years,” he says. “My wife Anne and I are the third generation that has spent summers in Newport. All four of our sons have places here, and our daughter and family live on the island full time.”
In the early years of their marriage, Matt and Anne vacationed in different places on his parents’ property. But when a friend mentioned that the home abutting Hammersmith Farm, where Jackie Kennedy spent much of her childhood, might be for sale, the couple took notice. “We always wanted a house on the water,” says Matt. “I had passed this one a million times on my boat and never paid much attention to it. But when Anne and I took an intentional look at it, we agreed it was special. It has the best views in Newport, including the Newport Bridge, Jamestown, and historic Fort Adams.” The Hamiltons bought the property the next day and aptly named it “On the Rocks.”
Creating a Garden for Entertaining
As the couple spent the next few years entertaining friends and hosting various benefits for favorite local nonprofits— including Newport Hospital; Newport Historical Society; Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County; and The Newport Show, an antiques show that Anne founded and has run for the last 15 years—they realized their existing outdoor gathering spaces needed an overhaul that would better accommodate large groups. They also wanted to upgrade the recreational facilities for their children and grandchildren to enjoy. To tackle the project, Matt and Anne contacted Hoerr Schaudt, a Chicago-based architectural landscape firm whose work they admired. “Then, because we believe in supporting local businesses, we hired Middletown builder Kirby Perkins, who I had known when we were kids,” says Matt.
This dream team began by reconfiguring the terrace to make it more user-friendly with the addition of spacious cooking, dining, and sitting areas around two matching fireplaces. A long pergola covers part of the space, providing a sense of separation and a bit of shade. “It becomes an additional house with no walls that has a modern feel,” says Nick Fobes of Hoerr Schaudt. With permission from the Coastal Resources Management Council, the design professionals also refashioned the outdated heart-shaped pool into a sleek, heated infinity pool whose color is compatible with the bay. The surrounding landscape is appropriately embraced by hundreds of native white hydrangeas, lilacs, and waving ornamental grasses.
“This project could not have worked out more perfectly,” says Anne. “At first I thought I wanted a formal garden, but Doug Hoerr reminded me that the ocean is my garden.”
Now she finds herself taking in the view every chance she gets. As she says, “We use the space much more than we ever imagined.”
Alfresco with Anne
“Never be too timid to use fine china and crystal outside,” says Anne Hamilton. “The natural beauty of the outdoors perfectly plays host to a sophisticated celebration.” For this gathering, Anne’s tabletop décor included dinnerware by Robert Haviland & C. Parlon paired with delicate Fern stemware by William Yeoward. Napkins with a periwinkle border complement the blues of the seat cushions, fitting for this maritime locale. She arranged simple ranunculus, seeded eucalyptus, and cosmos in Yeoward vases to complete the setting.
Anne also suggests making the most of your entertaining efforts with back-to-back parties. While she and Matt hosted 10 friends for the Saturday evening dinner party, Anne then followed up with a Sunday brunch for her Newport girl pals. As she explains, once you are in hosting mode, it’s easy to tack on the second gathering. For Anne and Matt, that mindset extends all summer through Labor Day. “Early September is one of the best times of year in New England,” Anne says. “The soft breezes make it ideal to continue our outdoor gatherings.”
By Marion Laffey Fox | Photography by Kindra Clineff